Support workshops to help with flash flood recovery for Victorian farms

A series of Agriculture Victoria workshops will be held in March, targeted at supporting producers recovering from the December flash flooding and ongoing dry conditions.

Two workshops will be held in March in collaboration with the North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA).

In addition, farmers can contact Agriculture Victoria if they would like to engage in a free one on one consultation to assist in planning for the months ahead.

State agriculture minister Jaclyn Symes said that the Victorian government was encouraging farmers to attend.

“We recognise the significant impact the December flood had on many landholders in Northern Victoria and that’s why Agriculture Victoria has been on the ground from day one, supporting farmers and the community to recover from the flooding,” Symes said.

“In addition to these workshops, Agriculture Victoria is also offering affected farm businesses a one-on-one consultation to assist them to manage the impacts of the flash flooding and continuing dry seasonal conditions.”

Topic experts will present at the workshops on farm water planning and management, planning on-farm fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements and feed budgeting through 2019.

The first workshop will focus on options for farm water management and will be held at Rutherglen on Monday 4 March.

The second workshop will focus on options for fodder production, livestock nutritional requirements, feed budgeting and planning ahead for the Autumn break.

The second workshop will be held in the flood impacted area at Tarrawingee on Monday 18 March.

The Victorian government is currently offering On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants of up to $5,000 to producers within Northern Victoria, including the shires impacted by the December flooding, to improve drought management and preparedness.

Assistance was made available to flood impacted farmers and the community through a range of mechanisms including Emergency Relief Assistance Payments, which provide up to $540 per adult and $270 per child (up to a maximum of $1,890 per eligible household) to help meet immediate needs, including emergency food, shelter, clothing, and personal items.

Bush tucker trials to explore a new agricultural industry

Some of Victoria’s oldest flavours will soon be accessible to dining tables across the world, due to s Victorian state government grant to expand the bush food industry on the Great South Coast.

Minister for Regional Development , Jaclyn Symes, has announced the $30,000 Food Source Victoria grant, which will allow WG Enterprises to start supply chain mapping, field trials and kitchen trials to expand the emerging industry.

WG Enterprises provides economic opportunities to Aboriginal people by assisting individuals into employment and creating sustainable, Aboriginal-operated commercial enterprises.

The demand for bush foods is currently exceeding supply, with several key crops being exported to overseas markets. The grant will identify where the opportunities lie for Great South Coast producers, processors, distributors and retailers, and demonstrate a model to commercialise the businesses.

The field trials will assess the capability of several species, with viable plants then taken to large scale production testing. With most bush food research currently focused on northern or central Australia, this work will break new ground and test species that have never been researched before.

The trials will test Apium Prostratum (sea celery), Tasmania Lanceolata (mountain pepper), Kunzea Pomifera (muntries), Prostranthera Rotundifolia (round leaf mint bush), Mentha Australias (river mint), Carpobrotus Rossii (pigface), Arthropodium Strictum (chocolate lily), Arthropodium Milleflorum (vanilla lily), Billardiera cymosa (sweet apple berry) and Trachymene Incisia (wild parsnip).

The Labor Government’s Food Source Victoria program supports producers and businesses working in partnership to develop products that take the state’s best produce to the world, creating new jobs and growing exports.

“We’re proud to support WG Enterprises to expand the emerging native bush foods industry and create more jobs for Aboriginal Victorians.” said Symes. “This exciting project has the potential to bring some of Australia’s oldest flavours to dining tables right across the world.”

Food and Wine event organised for regional Victoria

Melbourne Food and Wine’s Festival’s Crawl ‘n’ Bite concept is expanding to Ballarat.

The launch of the Made of Ballarat Pop Up Shop in Melbourne will promote Ballarat’s world class food and wine experiences and handcrafted products.

Minister for tourism and major events John Eren joined Visit Ballarat CEO Noel Dempsey, chairman of Food and Wine Victoria Radek Sali and mayor of Ballarat Samantha McIntosh on October 18 to announce the events, which will help drive visitation to regional Victoria.

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Crawl ‘n’ Bite series brings diners together who sample the best of Victoria’s food and drink over three separate venues in one evening.

READ: Highlights of Fine Food Australia include focus on robotics and health foods

“These events are a great platform to share what regional Victoria has to offer, creating opportunities to get the world talking about Australia’s premier food and wine destination and talented makers,” said Eren.

The inaugural regional series will be hosted in Ballarat, Healesville and Kyneton in March over a weekend dedicated to regional experiences that showcase Victoria’s restaurants, food bowls and wineries.

The series will not only help to grow local tourism by enticing more visitors to enjoy the renowned food and wine experiences of regional Victoria, but will it also encourage visitors to stay longer.

Dempsey said Visit Ballarat is incredibly excited about the announcements, which are testament to the wealth of product Ballarat has to offer the most discerning visitor.

For those unable to make it to the region, the Victorian government is bringing the best of Ballarat’s food producers and artisans to Melbourne through the $2 million Regional Events and Innovation Fund (REIF).

The REIF will fund the Made of Ballarat Pop Up Shop which will offer everything from goat’s cheese and locally made gin to handcrafted wrought iron and merino wool beanies.

The REIF provides support to develop and deliver more innovative regional local campaigns and a strong calendar of events which will help bring visitors to our regions, support businesses to grow and create more jobs for locals.

About 4.2 million visitors enjoyed a food and wine experience during their stay in Victoria in the year ending March 2018.

In the same period, regional Victoria received 50.1m visitors who spent $9.7 billion.


Native fish report card improves information on Victorian fish

Victorians will get a better insight into the health of the state’s waterways and native fish numbers following the launch of the native fish report card.

Victoria’s minister for water Lisa Neville said the report card will give the community and anglers important information about the state of Victorian fish.

“Through Water for Victoria, we’re improving information about our waterways and catchments, and better reporting back to communities,” said Neville.

By monitoring fish populations in Victoria’s 10 priority rivers, the report card will tell anglers and conservationists about the health of key Victorian fish species.

READ: SafeFish gets $855,000 to help Australia’s seafood sector grow

The priority rivers are Gellibrand river, Glenelg river, Goulburn river, Gunbower, Lindsay and Mullaroo, Mitchell river, Ovens river, Thomson and Macalister, Wimmera river and Yarra river.

Fishers, citizen scientists and community members alike can access information about recreational and threatened non-recreational fish species through a web-portal that will be updated with new fish population data every year.

Over the next three years this website will provide information on the condition of native fish.

As data is strengthened throughout the years, it will help discover trends in fish populations.

Minister for agriculture Jaala Pulford said the government wants Victorians fishing more often, which is why it’s investing in the native fish report card to provide the community information on what they can expect to catch.

“We can’t wait to see the benefits of our record native fish stocking and continued investment in snags for fish reflected in future report card results,” said Pulford.

Funding for this program comes from the Victorian government’s $222 million investment into waterway and catchment health, recreational fishing licence fees and Target One Million, which is investing $46m to get more people fishing.

The program is run by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Victorian Fisheries Authority.

Victoria scientists pave way for faster precision breeding of wheat

Agriculture Victoria scientists have helped crack a genetic code that provides a new foundation to improve production and response to disease threats.

The work provides a new foundation to enhance wheat quality and better prepare an industry adapting to climate change.

The journal Science published the world’s first detailed road map of the wheat genome today, paving the way for faster precision breeding of improved varieties of what is a key global food crop.

Wheat is the most widely-cultivated crop on earth, contributing $6 billion in export revenue to the Australian economy each year.

READ: CSIRO helps develop high-fibre wheat

While a common food ingredient, its genetic makeup is so complex that the wheat genome is equivalent to a 16-billion-piece puzzle.

The publication is a culmination of 13 years of research by Agriculture Victoria honorary research fellow, Professor Rudi Appels, along with a team of Agriculture Victoria scientists and the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.

Appels was one of four founders and a lead researcher on the project, which has 202 co-investigators from 73 institutions across 20 countries.

“In other plant and animal species, access to a fully annotated and ordered genome has accelerated the development of important traits,” he said.

“Wheat has lagged behind other crop species because of the complexity of its genome, so today’s publication of the 21 fully annotated chromosomes of the bread wheat genome is a transformational leap for science and industry,” said Appels.

“It provides a foundation for the genetically complex task of developing varieties with improved yield and quality, without compromising regional adaptation to stresses,” he said.

“This breakthrough has significant implications for the Australian wheat industry as it enables us to tackle challenges such as adapting wheat for changing climatic conditions and to use fertiliser more efficiently,” said Appels.

The Australian research was largely conducted at the AgriBio Centre for AgriBioscience in Victoria.

“Australia brings to the table world-class capabilities for agricultural genomics research, including next generation sequencing and advanced scientific computing, as well as internationally recognised scientists. AgriBio’s capabilities have enabled us to make a significant contribution to the international effort to fully sequence and annotate the genome of bread wheat,” said Appels.

Appels, with Agriculture Victoria scientists, led the Australian effort to sequence the 7A chromosome – one of the 21 chromosomes of the bread wheat genome.

“Chromosome 7A is critical in determining components of yield and flour quality attributes in wheat grown in Australia,” said Appels.

Support for this effort was led by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, and Bioplatforms Australia through the Australian Government’s National Collaborate Research Infrastructure Strategy.

Workshops across Australia aim to help growers with pest and disease management

A series of free workshops to be held across Australia in August and September will give growers help with pest and disease management.

They will have the opportunity to hear from leading entomologists on how they can use integrated pest and disease management to help maintain orchard health and viability.

The nine workshops will focus on pests and diseases affecting local orchards in each state, including control measures and chemical interactions.

The workshops form part of a pest, disease and weed management program for the Australian apple and pear industry, which is a levy-funded project delivered under the management of Agriculture Victoria entomologist, David Williams.

READ: Hybrid mega-pest threatening global food crops

Williams is recognised nationally and internationally for expertise in integrated pest and disease management development and adoption.

Williams will be the key speaker at the nine workshops being held around Australia in August and September.

He will be joined by Australian experts and fellow entomologist, Christopher Adams, from Michigan State University.

The free workshops start on the 21st of August in Tatura, Victoria and on the 22nd of August in Bundoora.

There will also be workshops in Tasmania, SA, WA, NSW and Queensland.

Orchardists will hear case studies of successful initiatives and be guided through a process of developing their individual integrated pest and disease management plans for the coming season.

Participants will also have an opportunity to identify a local pest or disease management issue for further study.

The workshops are part of a project funded by Hort Innovation using the Apple and Pear research and development levy and funds from the Australian Government.

The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources is delivering the project in collaboration with Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Western Australia Primary Industries and Regional Development, Tasmania’s Institute of Agriculture; and Lenswood Cooperative.